What I'm Seeing Now

head_left_image

"You Home Inspectors Make Things Up!"

That's what the very disturbed voice over the phone said, "You home inspectors make things up!"

My answer, "No sir.  That's incorrect.  Why are you calling?"

"My deck is made of wood that doesn't rot!  You said the deck is rotting!  I was told it would last forever!"

"Is this the inspection in Happytown VA?  Did you not see my report?"

"No.  I only needed to hear about it."

This is a phone call based in ignorance and a lack of initiative toward understanding.  I have gotten such phone calls before.  This was an easy one to deal with.

"Are you at home?"  He was.  "Can you go out back and look at the bottoms of the deck posts?"

A minute later - "Holy cow!  (not the word he used)  I was told those posts would last forever!"

Another urban legend  rears its ugly head.

So I spent a couple of minutes and taught him about pressure-treated wood.

The first pressure-treated wood was invented by Dr. Karl Wolman in the early 20th century.  He developed a water-based process to infuse salts into the wood that would displace the sap and thereby preserve it.  And he tweaked his formulas and techniques for decades.

From that start his chemical process went to a CCA liquid - Chromated Copper Arsenate - which was a mixture of copper sulphate and arsenate chromate dissolved in water.   Similar chemical mixes were used for decades.  In the United States the arsenate (a form of arsenic) was removed from pressure-treated wood formulas in 2004.

This deck was built in the late 80s.  It probably used a CCA then.  However, there are different uses and grades of pressure-treated woods.  For example, stamps can be seen which say things like UC4A (Ground Contact, General Use) and UC4B (Ground Contact, Heavy Use).  While it's unknown what grade wood was used for this deck, it could very well be that the common parlance of the era, at hardware stores and used by contractors, was that the wood would last forever.

Of course, that isn't true.  This post is rotting and/or damaged by termites.  It is compromised.  The rest of the deck was compromised as well, with severe splits, cracks, huge splinters and warping.  It is basically unsafe.  But that's beside the point of the phone call.  Walking out onto the very damaged deck, it could truthfully be said that it isn't "rotting!"

My recommendations:  home inspectors don't make things up on home inspection reports!  The house is the house, the condition is the condition, and those things are observed and reported by the inspector.  And it might be worth a smidge of an attempt at trying to understand the report and actually LOOKING at the photos therein to see what the home inspector is saying!  Anything less than basic understanding a home inspection report prior to calling anyone about it is lazy and counterproductive.  Oh, and remember this news flash:  wood decks don't last forever.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 39 commentsJay Markanich • March 15 2015 02:37AM

Comments

Jay, you report the facts and nothing but the facts as you observe them. That is what you are paid to do! Complaing won't change the facts! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker (Wayne M Martin) over 3 years ago

And didn't in this case Wayne.  This guy was out of line, at best.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Sure looks like wood rot to me but I'm not that versed in knowing the difference...

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 3 years ago

Now the question is, will he fix it or push mud and leaves up around it and hope no one sees it?

Posted by Rob D. Shepherd, Principal Broker ABR, GRI (Windermere/lane county) over 3 years ago

I would add that installing any post in contact with the ground is typically not allowed. At least now, may have been "fine" then, because the wood will last forever. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay, I am of the opinion that ANY wood resting on the ground is probably not a good idea, let alone wood that holds up a deck! Pressure treated or not, just something foolish I have stuck in my head. 

So, was the deck given a CO by the town? Or was it one of THOSE types of repairs/builds/renovations as well?

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 3 years ago

PS, maybe Billy Jays has some special spray to fix that?

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 3 years ago

Good morning Jay,

The famous carbon footprint that will be replaced with a concrete base or stone.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 3 years ago

But Jay it is easier to make the sale if we say the deck will last forever. 

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 3 years ago

Who built that thing and just stuck the post in the ground.... the shame of it all!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 3 years ago

'Tis, James, truly 'tis rot, and perhaps et too (that's how my wife's family says ate...).

Rob - the deck is shot so I expect he will probably offer a credit toward its replacement.

Jim - here the posts need to be buried 24" and secured on top of a Sono-tube footer.  I admit to not knowing what this county required in the late 80s. 

It's a 70s townhouse with a late 80s deck Andrea.  I don't know all of that.  But the post can be secured above or below ground here - but the supports one way or the other need to be 24" deep.  Billy Jays  has a spray, but obviously it wasn't around in the 80s!

That's how it will be done when replaced Raymond!  And I've never known anyone who could calculate a carbon footprint for anything!

 

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Tom - that might work for the house too!

Bobby Bob's Deck Company, Fred?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay Markanich I think after the uncalled for derogatory remark about your profession would have called for an apology. Many owners may not realize that you document everything that you find deficient in a home. You had the proof! Great post.

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (Realty National) over 3 years ago

Jay - Some homeowners are not knowledgeable the problems within the property. Hopefully, this homeowner realized you gave the best service.

Posted by John Pusa, Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest) over 3 years ago

S&N - thanks!  Of course we document it.  Once an agent called me to tell me to change my report because everyone knows there can't be mold in an attic.  I sent her photos and asked if she could diagnose it for me since it "isn't mold."  She never called back with a diagnosis, not sure why...  (says he with a sarcastic drip).

John - it's hard to look at that deck and not know it is failed, but he only had to look at the posts to see this!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Some people let emotion cloud their judgement, especially when it is their home.   I started redoing the deck on our new house in 2011 and the project ended up being completed with a chain saw.  The new hardscape patio looks great!

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) over 3 years ago

Decks are a thing of regular maintenance Stephen.  Patios are not!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Aloha Jay,

I guess putting a concrete footer between the post and ground was redundant since treated wood lasts "forever". Yikes, I guess the best quality of a Home inspector is a sense of humor!

a hui hou,

Posted by Kimo Stowell, REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i (HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 ) over 3 years ago

Any wood that is in direct contact with the ground will rot over time.  Repairing it is not difficult, but does have some cost.  There's no reason for home inspectors to make things up, but can make mistakes when conducting an inspection.  If allowed to see the report, the Owner and Agent can comment on the inspection.  I've experienced errors in a report, so I know it does happen, even from very good inspector.  I find it more likely that an inspector will miss something. 

Posted by Dan Johnson (Today Real Estate) over 3 years ago

In truth, there is no need to make things up, real life has a way of out doing anyting we can come up with.

Posted by David Alan Baker Laveen & South Phoenix Realtor, Your local Expert (HomeSmart) over 3 years ago

damn you to heck for makin' stuff up.

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) over 3 years ago

Forever?  wouldn't rot?  I bet termites won't eat it either.  Oh well, the poor is right in the photo (or seeing it in person)

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 3 years ago

Aloha Kimo - sometimes that is absolutely necessary!  And we'll probably meet again!

Dan - if a home inspector is 99% he might miss 100 things!  But photos say it all - this guy only had to look at the report.

David - oh, so true!  Mother Nature makes the best news.

Never heard that phrase, Alan.  I think you made it up.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Sure some wolmanized wood has a 25 year guarantee, just like 25 year shingles.    NOT!

Posted by Russ Ravary ~ Metro Detroit Realtor call (248) 310-6239, Michigan homes for sale ~ yesmyrealtor@gmail.com (Real Estate One) over 3 years ago

I can't even imagine the phone calls you get.  BTW, you're going to get a call from a buyer of mine wanting a home inspection that has a lot of deck questions.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) over 3 years ago

Crazy.  Why is the presumption that someone is lying or making something up?  I agree...check the facts.

Oh and right..wood doesn't last forever, esp if it's outside.  

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) over 3 years ago

I wish all home inspectors were like you.  I have had experiences with a couple of home inspectors that have made incorrect assumptions and it has raised some concerns and taken a lot of effort and expense to correct.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 3 years ago

It's a good service that we provide. Most people appreciate what we do. An inspector is paid for the opinion they provide. Not everyone likes your opinion and that's just the way it goes. At least you were able to convey yours to the seller easily in this case.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 3 years ago

Jay Markanich at times, sellers do pretend not to know anything! However, this seems to be a genuine seller who believed in others and you did show him the fact!

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 3 years ago

Jay, I was told that you and I will last forever.  Or at least a while longer.

Growing up on the farm, I was afforded the opportunity to fence 300 acres, placing a post every ten feet.  If my arithmetic is right, that is over 1300 fence posts.  We cut cedar and locust posts, and with no additives, they were expeted to last 25 to 30 years.  My father-in-law set posts in the early 1950s on our farm, and many of them remain (some are only standing by habit).  We split locust for stabelizers  and common post.  We set them about two to three feet deep, and mostly in clay.  I wonder why they outlast pressure treated lumber, unless it is because the lumber sits on the ground where water often pools ground, and invites termites and wet rot.  Is it that simple? 

Posted by Fred Cope, Looking For Homes With A Smile (Reliant Realty in Nashville, TN) over 3 years ago

Jay  - I've never actually had someone say that the inspectors make things up though I've had annoyed sellers.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 3 years ago

Russ - the key word is "some!"  And the warranties are "limited..."

Chris Ann - usually from sellers.  And of course anyone can call anytime.  Once I got a call from a very drunk seller saying he was coming over to get me and my family.  I just called the county police and somehow he never showed up...

WOW - and I mean wow...  Um, oh yeah - rot needs three things --  air, food, and water.  Indoors, and without all three of those things, it can last pretty much forever!  See Mt. Vernon and Monticello.

Joan - it's always best NOT to report assumptions.

Rob - I was able to turn the call completely around.  Before you call someone it's best to have your facts in order, and/or be completely informed.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Tammy - sorry, you slipped in there and I didn't see you!  Termites?  I never saw any termites!

Praful - at least he listened to me.  Sometimes people are so upset the forest gets in the way of seeing a particular tree.  Or hearing one fall...

That's a great story Fred!  And you'll never forget it.  Black Locust is among the most rot/insect resistant woods (along with Yew and Mulberry).  Cedar (Eastern and Western) is among the group called "Very Resistant."

Christine - I once had a thermal image showing how water was getting into a house via the deck ledger beam through bolts.  And I said that the deck lacked flashing.  The seller called me to say there was no such thing as deck flashing and I made it up only to have "something to report" about his perfect house.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Great post Jay

Posted by Barrett Henry, SRS, MRP, ePRO, The NOW Team is your RE/MAX team for Tampa FL (RE/MAX Bay to Bay) over 3 years ago

Thank you Barrett.  The house is the house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

It's definitely a major misunderstanding among home-owners, Jay. I've seen plenty of rotting pressure treated decks and fences. If property cared for and treated regularly, they will last a long time, if not, it is an urban legend. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 3 years ago

But it's probably true that the sales people, or contractors, told people back then that the wood would last forever Mike.  Looking at this deck, though, it is obvious that such words were pap.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay,

    Sounds like you are the type of home inspector I would readily recommend. However I have to disagree with your initial premise. I was a contractor for 20yrs before getting into real estate and I can tell you for sure, some home inspectors DO make things up. Ok, I'll be nice, perhaps they just grossly misinterpret situations. I have a list of home inspectors I give to buyers. I know their work and reputation and I have absolute confidence they will only present the facts and yes, pictures are a huge improvement added to an inspection.

Posted by Larry Riggs, GRI, SRS Your Frederick County Specialist (Re/Max Plus) about 3 years ago

Thanks Larry.  I am not sure the benefit to anyone, and particularly the home inspector, for something to be made up.  If there is not moisture in a ceiling or wall, how could I make it up?  If the receptacle is working, I could not say it is not. 

I would say there are inspectors who have little experiental knowledge beyond a recent class and the passing of a test.  And in that light could say things improperly or with ignorance. 

But if the home inspection's goal is to inform a buyer to be able to make a decision regarding the purchase of a house making anything up does not contribute to that goal!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments